Tag: christmas eve

Looking for Royalty

Christmas Eve Homily2019, St Petri Away in a manger

After viewing Come Away in a Manger – Wise Man https://skitguys.com/videos/away-in-a-manger

Matthew 2:1-22 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ 

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 

6 ‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; 

for out of you will come a ruler 

    who will shepherd my people Israel.”[b]’ 

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ 

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 

 

They came looking for royalty, looking for beauty, for answers, for truth.  What have you come here for? 

They went where royalty is usually found – a palace, a king with fine robes and much political power….They went to Herod. They did not know that they were looking in the wrong place for the wrong royalty.   

And yet, it was not just them. It wasn’t that they themselves were searching for beauty and truth and royalty, they were also being led to find THE royal one.   

Finally, they were led to the real royalty with the real truth, real answers, real beauty. They instinctively knew he was worthy of their highest honour.   

You may be searching this holy night, but you are also being led this holy night.   

PRAYER:      

Silent night, holy night! 

Son of God, you are love’s pure light 

Radiant beams from your holy face, 

Brings the dawn of redeeming grace, 

Jesus Lord, at thy birth, 

By your Spirit make us alert 

 

 We hear from these witnesses that the first night of joy eventually gave way to another night sometime later that was to be a night of terror. Herod had all the boys under the age of two murdered as a result of hearing of these eastern astrologers were in town looking to pay their tribute to this rival king.  

So, Matthew tells us of two kings; one a trickster and one the Truth: one the real deal, the other a temporary impostor: one operating in the darkness of secrecy, and the other just put right out there in the light; clear and true: one paranoid and fearful, the other innocent and new.   

Friend, there is an opportunity to let your heart be filled with wonder for one as you find yourself rejecting the other.   

You’d think this would be an easy choice. No one wants to be lied to, imposed upon, tricked or misled as those Magi were. Everyone wants to find the truth, the joy, the light the freedom.   

But the reality is that often, the two kings are not so easy to choose between. Finding joy and wonder in the Promised One is often elusive.     

That is not so much because of the kings, but because of us. Within us there is this tendency to not be able to see the light and the shade clearly. We are not perfect people. Sometimes we even chase the darkness believing it to be the light we think we need. Sometimes we trick ourselves as we follow the trickster, believing he is the truth-teller.   

The wise man said that he had been searching for the star, the sign of the Divine, the light in the dark, the humility, the honest to God truth of things. He and the others must have wanted the truth badly. Why else would you search the stars, plumb the depths of known science theory, travel so far and so long?   

Is this us still? Is this you now? Are you wanting the truth here? Have you been searching? Are you still searching? What if you found the truth, and the truth was a person? Would you receive him?  

People search for truth and hope in their own way. We all want to make sense of the pain, the fear, the confusion, the injustice, the loneliness, the threats to our life on planet earth we feel. We all need to know that what we are doing counts for something bigger than just ourselves  

But it seems that we in the West, at least for time being, will search for hope and light anywhere but in this shed with a baby under a star. He’s ‘old hat’ now.   

We seem to have mostly thrown this baby out with the bathwater. We are now searching for a replacement hope and future, be it in Eastern many gods, Western no gods; in our technology, the science, taking action on every cause to prove to ourselves that we really can be everything we need to be now WITHOUT this baby.   

But here we are still: griefs, sorrow, injustice, damaged planet, shaky environmental future, living in the land of fire and flood, drought and plenty, still dying, still arguing, still fighting, still searching, still needing that star…..   

And here he is again. A baby just being a baby. But a baby with a long-told back story. This boy is the long-awaited culmination of a nation, a planet, a human race. He is the delivery of the stories of promise for generations looking forward to this moment that is foretold in such detail across a thousand years, with such beautiful images of hope.   

In the end any searching person has to draw near to this silent night scene in some way. No one wants Herod kingship, so what about the other king and his kingship  

Here he is named “Shepherd” king. This King will not lead you down the garden path to destruction but will shepherd to good water, good grass. He will protect, serve, lead you to replenish you; tend you.   

How can you trust this good news? He has a forward story too. He will go on to serve you and tend you at the cost of his life. He will rule by giving everything. He will rule by serving those who do not deserve to be served by a king. He will serve by losing himself to find you. He will use his divine power for healing and life, not murder and power. He will bless the children, heal the broken hearted and win back the prisoners from their self-made Herod type cages.   

So which king is it this holy night? More of the same or quiet and full wonder at the good news love in this boy of promise?    

I don’t believe I got myself here or that you just got yourself here to the king’s shed tonight. I was led. Same for you.   

I have been led to discover that this Jesus is the One; He is light, not dark. He is truth not trickery. He is joy, not fear. He is freedom to be open and honest in the light, not scratching around in the dark trying to hide everything. He is open invitation and welcome, not manipulation and power preservation.   

As he enters your space and lays down his life for you; as he gives you everything he has so you can receive everything he gives, surely the only response to that in your heart is give your heart to him; just like those Easterners – marvelling at the beauty, truth and promise of this baby King and the rejection of the other one.    

Open your treasures – not the cash or the card or the credit; the gold, frankincense and myrrh. No, open the heart to the boy in the box; He has given you a new life to be every day not by silver or gold, but by his precious blood.   

He is God in the flesh. He will receive your gifts and give you much more. He will give you, you; a new you for a new life.  

Jesus recreate you this holy night in his holy light.  

Christmas Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning

Monday 24th December – Christmas Eve

St Petri Lutheran Church – Message by Vicar Shaun Manning

Luke 2:1-14

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

So here we are on the Eve of Christmas, on the eve of one of the most joyful times of the year. Regardless if people celebrate the real meaning of Christmas or not, it is a time when people seek to be with the company of family and friends; get together, eat, exchange presents and even sing songs.

Not too long ago, whilst on school placement for my pastoral studies, I heard a story whose setting is also Christmas Eve. It’s family context also isn’t too unfamiliar to many of our Australian homes today. Other than the fact that we don’t typically have White Christmas’s here.
Anyhow, it’s starts off on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, inside a warm house, the Christmas tree was cheerfully ablaze with lights and surrounded by dozens of presents.

The wife of the small family and the children were dressed and ready to leave for a Christmas Eve service at their local Church. “Come with us,” they urged their husband and father, for they loved him.

“Not me,” he snapped. “I don’t believe in all that religion garbage.”

For many years, the man’s wife had been trying to tell him about Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. How God’s Son had become a human being in order to save us and show us who God really is and they way to heaven.

“Nonsense,” the man always replied.

The family left for church and the man was all alone in his cozy country home. He glanced out the window at the cold snowy scene outside. He turned himself by the fire. But as he turned, his eyes caught a movement in the snow outside. He looked. Cats! Three young cats walking slowly past his window.

“Silly cats,” he thought. “They’ll freeze for sure!” The man put on his hat and coat and opened door… “Come here, cats! Come inside where there’s warmth and food. You’ll die out there.”

He walked outside. “Come back! Don’t be afraid, I want to save you.”
But the cats ran away in fright, the cats were gone, it was too late.

“Well, I did everything I could for them,” the man uttered to himself. “What more could I do?”….

Now the story continues further but we’ll leave it there for a moment…

In comparison to this story, presumably in some Western first-world country, our Gospel text paints a slightly different picture.
Joseph and Mary’s Christmas Eve was in Israel, in the 1st century; hence their Christmas Eve looked much different than ours typically would also.

The Emperor of the time has issued a decree and so everyone needs to go to their home town. Hence for Mary and Joseph, being in Nazareth at the time, needed to travel back to Bethlehem. With the assistance of Google Maps I discovered that the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is 70 miles, or a 112km. This is similar distance if one is to travel from Nuri to Waikerie… a roughly 22 and a half hour walk.

This is in an age and time where modes of travel are even harder for ones of low status like Mary and Joseph, and also one must remember that Mary is heavily pregnant. (How they got there specifically, we don’t know for sure but lets just say that it wasn’t by motor vehicle, metro bus or a helicopter).

But as if things couldn’t get much harder.
When they finally arrive in Bethlehem but there is no where for them to stay, so they presumably get a small place in a close by stable. Whilst here Luke describes for us here that Mary gives birth to her firstborn son, wraps Him in swaddling cloth and lays him in a manger.
Not your ideal Christmas Eve to say the least…
nor a great time to fall into labor is it?

When one looks on the difficult, mundane and very human circumstances of Jesus’ birth, it’s easy to lose sight of Who He is and what His birth means.

But this is the whole point of Christmas and Luke presents this nativity scene in line with this truth. Luke paints the true picture of God in Christ who descended to our lowly and fallen world. Christ the eternal Son of God, who partook in the Creation of the World, has become human. John puts it this way “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… He came to which was His own but his own knew him not”. The same world He created He has now literally stepped into and become a part of but all we could offer was a manger.

It makes one wonder about the depth of our state if God is having to intervene to such great depths. Just like if the Federal Police involved or if someone is being summoned to the Supreme Court, something major has happened. So how much more serious is the issue if the One who positioned the universe, composed all matter and gave life to everything, has had to step in and do something?

We paused on our story earlier, with the man pondering on what He could do to save these cats. After opening the door and enticing them to come in and be saved, he says to himself “well I did everything I could for them? What more could I do?… He interestingly considered that the only way he could reach and save them, would be if he would become a cat himself. “Surely then I could show them who I am and what I was trying to do”. As he ponders this, he returns back to his warm fire and hears the church bells ring in the distance. He paused for a second and listened. Then he got down on his knees and wept.

Why did he weep? This is an understandable reaction of someone who experiences God’s love, especially for the very first time. The man had been encountered with the Gospel, finally understanding why his family had enticed him to come to church for Christmas, year after year.
Isn’t it true that we are lost if God doesn’t intervene?
In the state we are in, we cannot come to God on our own accord but need Him to come to us. And He did, and He does also now.

Around halfway through the Gospel narrative we hear of the shepherds.
These shepherds have encountered the glory of the Lord, God’s holiness in the field and are terrified.
None of us can stand in the Holy presence of God, for without God’s help we are totally unholy, aren’t we?
The angel of the Lord says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I bring Good News of great joy for all people”. The angel continues by explaining what the Good News is… “For unto you is born this day… a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you… you will find…”

How would you finish this sentence yourself? Jesus is the King and Lord, so how would you think royalty would typically make its appearance? Think of when Prince Harry and Kate came to Dubbo earlier this year. There was media everywhere, security and crowds following them everywhere they went, and dozens of roads being closed off. This is not overly surprising is it? This is how we expect earthly royalty to be greeted by the hosting nation. However, what do you think the sign would be if, not the Prince of United Kingdom, but the King of the Universe was to make his appearance? So, you’ve just heard that the Lord of the Universe and Saviour of the World has come… what sign would you look for? what would be the sign that you would think God would send? Surely something magnificent and glorious and definitely not… “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

The Wise Men who catch wind of the King who is being born and then head to where they would expect a King to be born, in a palace and hence they head up to Jerusalem. We often do the same don’t we?
How do expect God to work out His plans in the life is His people?
We look and expect a different King, don’t we?

If you’re anything like me, you would expect the Creator to come and work in some glorious and ostentatious manner, but He typically doesn’t. In particular, when we think of tonight, He goes about His work of reconciling us to Himself, through this baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

But this is just who God is, and who He has always been. Walking amongst Adam and Eve in garden, coming to visit Abraham his home, meeting Moses on the mountain and being present with His people in the Temple in Jerusalem. He has now come ever so closer and even took on the flesh in which He created. St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Philippians… “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

 

This divine Son of God became human in baby Jesus; traded in His throne for an earthly manger; He exchanged robes of splendour for swaddling clothes; He left the songs of praise from a multitude of angels for the recognition of a few shepherds. He has done all this for you and for me. Not because it was nice, but because it was necessary. Necessary for us to be restored to right relationship with God. And this could not have happened if God didn’t become one of us.

 

This is who God was, has always been and is also now. By looking for Him to operate in a way other than Christ, we end up missing Him and who He truly is. Although we may celebrate, we find it difficult to accept that our Lord became a human and died a cross, don’t we? It is also tough to believe that He works through His Spirit through the Word, ink and paper, that the Holy Spirit through the proclaimed Word creates and strengthens faith or that kneeling at the alter receiving bread and wine that our Lord’s body and blood are really present. Look at me, not even wearing a fancy stole but yet God still uses this imperfect creature, right now… to bring Good News of great joy.

Just as God stepped into a dark and sinful reality at Christmas, so He comes to you and me today.

He comes and steps into our broken and hurting lives and offers us hope through His Spirit and Word, peace through the forgiveness of our sins in Absolution and joy in the Good News of the Gospel which we share together as God’s people. He does all of this magnificent work in the lives of all people everywhere even to us here in Nuri.

 

The angels knowing what a miracle has just worked in the birth of Christ, and so they exclaim “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased”. So who is God pleased with? You? Me? Pastor Adrian? The answer is no. These words of affirmation belong to Christ. They were said to Christ at His Baptism. Christ shares that same affirmation from Father with us, when he became one of us, assumed human flesh and now through our Baptism has united us with Christ. United us with His death so that we share in His resurrection. And this brings peace to earth for those with whom He is pleased. And the good news is that He is pleased with any of us who don’t have to earn the right to receive His love, but who receive His love for us by faith.

 

This Christmas may God grant once again the joy, peace and hope as we hear and meditate on the Good News of His love that He has come in lowly means, that He does come to us here and now and that He will come again to take us to be with Him in the Highest Heaven.

Though I’m sure there are presents still waiting for you to receive this Christmas,
this season is truly about the gift that you have already been given.

Amen.

The end of human searching

Homily, Christmas Eve, Sunday December 25, 2017

St Petri

Matthew 2:1-11

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”[
b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

What Child is this? That is the question tonight. It has always been the question. It is the question of all wisdom seekers, truth searchers and life livers. It is a critical question for being you – worker, partner, child, parent, grandparent citizen, human being. Everyone from everywhere living in every calling has to at some point seriously ask this question of this Jesus.

It was obviously the driving force behind the journey of these Arabs from the East; these star gazers and seekers of mystery. Is it still the driving force of your journey or has it long receded into the back ground to be replaced by many other questions that seem more important?

However it is for you tonight, this search for life and hope and love we all pursue in one way or another is very human. We believe around here that this question of this child is no fool’s errand as many might think in our 21st Century secularising, Christianity-dismissing culture.

Whether it is or is not, the way to respond to the question, “What child is this? is clear. We are to speak less and listen more and only then see more. But beware, the question leads to the child and the child is a comfort to some and also a threat to some: a comfort to those who are aware and willing to admit their need for wisdom, their need to search, their willingness to listen, admit their limitations and put themselves at the foot of this manger as these wise guys did. But this child is a threat to those who have no such intentions tonight; who really remain quite closed off to his voice, his possibilities, his story, his presence; his appearing and his call to invite the question, “What child is this – for me?”.

It seems that these eastern camel desert people were not threatened by this child. They seemed to have found an end of human searching for what they, and we most need – the gifts of peace for the soul and for the relationships, joy with which to live, hope to stand well when the tide is against us, humility with which to serve, generosity from him by which we give ourselves to others.

They seemed to have found true and complete forgiveness; forgiveness for our wayward idol making and chasing heart that looks for his hope, this peace and wisdom with which to live life in places that only look like they will deliver these gifts but actually can’t – not for very long anyway.

These easterners seemed to have been open to the possibility that this boy in the shed would deliver these precious commodities of the mind, body and soul in full in the wood and wind and the wisdom of the cross.

What child is this? That is still the question. But to ask it raised the threat, or at least a question tonight: “Will you be a king of your life tonight and continue to protect your throne as Herod did, or will you let this king depose you and rule your life? Will this child be the greatest comfort of life and love will he be life, will he be wisdom and peace for you, or will he remain a stranger, a threat to your throne?

We are praying that you let the Servant King knock you off your throne tonight! Why? Because;

  • For many, he is the one to put me back together again after that loss, that breakdown, that crisis.
  • He is the one who will rise above all the evil and darkness we know and feel and make things right.
  • He is the one who will call me to give my life away in the service of friends and strangers, allies and enemies, and make something of me.
  • He is the difference between my ego that imprisons me more than I know, and true and full freedom that brings lasting comfort and joy to my soul.

Whoever he is; whatever he is, you don’t deserve him. You have not earnt him either. Same for the wise guys, shepherds, Mary, Joe and the sheep.

He is pure undeserved gift. That is why he is so good!

“…..they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts.

He is gift and the gift he seeks most from you is you.
Amen

The Call of Christmas – Listen, Speak Do

Homily: Christmas Eve 2016tcoc_stills_wisemen_skit-guys-sd

St Petri.

Matthew 1:18–25

 18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.’

22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’[d] (which means ‘God with us’).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

What kind of King would this be?

What kind of leader do you like?

What kind of master do you think we all need?

 

I hear the Spirit of God calling this Christmas Eve.

I hear the King of all kings calling.

I hear the master of life and death in the manger calling you this night.

I hear the Spirit calling you as he called Joe the carpenter, to be included in his grand plans for his world – plans to bring humanity and all creation back to a peace-filled, joy-filled, rest-filled relationship between he and us.

How do we respond to God’s call to be a part of what he is doing in his world where we live?

I listen to the account of Joseph and I hear how you and I are to respond to the King who calls at Christmas.

Joseph shows us how to respond to the Lord’s call on our lives as 2016 hits 2017…

Joseph listens.

Joseph speaks with God.

Joseph does what he is called to do not knowing the outcome.

Listen, Speak, Do – that is the response tonight. It’s always the response. It’s Joseph’s response. The Spirit calls you to do a “Joseph” tonight.

The Call of this Christmas is for you and I to Listen, Speak and Do.

 

But is this really for you?

Is God really calling you this Christmas? Isn’t this just paying our dues or keeping family tradition or telling bedtime stories to children?

I find one thing remarkable this Christmas. The call of Jesus is a call to everyone – without exception – those who believe they are too good for God to Call; those who believe that they are too bad for God to call, and those who don’t believe there is a call of God, or a God at all.

The call is even for those who believe that they are not required by God – for this grand plan he is enacting in his world…. Surely Joseph must have believed that he was no longer required. Joseph could have viewed himself, or been seen by others as superfluous to God’s divine work. A lot of people seem to be like that. Joseph could have been seen like a spouse of a king or a queen – unnecessary, not needed, unimportant in the plans of God. Like Camilla to Charles or Kate to William – a mere fringe player at best.

Do you view yourself as not required?

Joseph was going to separate from his young fiancé to save her the trouble of keeping up the charade that theirs was a marriage made in heaven. But the man is still included in God’ activity to change the world. Joseph is needed. The child, Jesus needs an earthly father as he needs his heavenly father. Mary needs a partner in life even though she is a daughter of the God of the miracle of the virgin birth. The boy Jesus needs to learn a craft, the value of contributing to others from his earthly dad. He needs the tender and unshakable embrace of a mother.

It is clear mums and dads and grandparents – being a holy family is a holy calling.

It is clear that the call of the living Jesus includes troubled teenagers (Mary), lonely or anxious or rejected young men (Joseph), successful or struggling parents and children living the journey of life together (Mary, Joseph and Jesus and brothers and sisters).

I hear the Spirit of Jesus calling you, family, and family of God in this community.

Lonely men feeling left on the bench or betrayed and hung out to dry.

  • Young women feeling confused about their place, their worth, their future.
  • Dad’s, mums’ kids and grandies,
  • Tradies, workers, handymen and women, business owners,
  • people of the wood or the metal or the land or the animals.

Prophets, prostitutes, slaves, masters, the faithful and the faithless – this generation and the ones to come.

Will you listen to his call? It is for you. Will you do it – live it, try it, learn it as you go to the best of your ability?

The call of Christmas is the Call of this God – Emmanuel – a Creator, Sustanier and gracious redeemer of our wayward and destructive bodies. It is the baby who would born for the cross who would lose his loving relationship with both his earthly and heavenly Father for a moment in time on that cross. It is the call of the Saviour who would give us a relationship of love and joy with God as our loving heavenly parent as a result.

For you, this call of the Christmas child might be like it was for Joseph – scary! – like a real-life nightmare. That is how it began for Joseph! But it won’t stay that way, as it did not stay that way for Joseph. He becomes the model for the world of the way to respond to the Call of God – Listen, speak and do. As he did for Joseph and billions of humans since, God has cast his lot upon you. It is a lot of meaning, purpose, hope, peace, forgiveness and above all, love. I hear the Spirit of God calling this Christmas.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve – Wondering Why?

HomilyIMG_6154
Christmas Eve 2015
St Petri, 7.30pm

Wondering Why?

Luke 2: 8–12 The birth of the Saviour of the world.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

MEDIA REFLECTION Play > the shepherdsskit guy.wmv

Why shepherds? Why did God choose shepherds? Why star gazers, young women, tradesmen, ordinary families out in towns and paddocks – not in castles, shopping malls, church buildings or government offices? Why farmers, business owners, mums. Dads, kids, everyday people and why not the powerful – government, political leaders, church leaders, CEO’s of large companies – movers and shakers?

And why all the fuss and why all the calls by Christians to keep the reason for season – the keep “Christ in Christmas”?
Why re-tell the story and why go to such length to remember it, share it, teach it to our children and tell it to friend and foe alike this time of year?

Because this event is much more.
Christmas is more than…..(religion or politics).
The gospel witnesses make it abundantly clear that this event in a mere satellite suburb of the city is neither in the realm of the government under Caesar Augustus or Governor Quirinius or the religious community under High priests Anna and Caiaphas.

When “the Word came and dwelt among us” (John 1) the word of God didn’t go to the church building. The angel’s announcement of the fulfillment of prophecy goes not to the Temple but to shepherds sleeping rough in the paddock. The Word did not first go to big billboard signs and massive advertising campaigns during prime time TV but to John the Baptist out in the wilderness. And not in his father Zechariah’s office in the Temple.

Wondering why?
Hear tonight that the Word made human flesh and blood comes to people where people need him most – in real life, real time, real need, real issues, real concerns.

He comes tonight to where we all live in one way or another, in one time or other, now, then or soon –
In the lonely isolation of the paddock,
In the loss of place or the threat of future financial security.
In the complexity and confusion of strained family relationships,
In the uncertainty about this world,
In the pain of illness and sadness of suffering,
In the comfort of being self-sufficient,
In the veil of pride in our own achievements that cannot last or deliver the final peace, joy and hope for which we all long
In real life that is not for show or not even close to being famous or powerful – the life we all live, He is – Immanuel – God with us right in the middle of life, not only in this beautiful candle lit church building or this beautiful Valley of vines and life and this relatively well healed and safe Country called Australia.

God goes out to that lonely place, those dry places, those parched sands, those troubled places where hate seems to rule – he goes into them and calls you to himself and his immense love in those places. Our God is not a God who dwells in ivory towers or star lit skies, although he creates them all and is in all and through all.

That infant in the trough tells us in a way we can feel and smell and touch that he really is interested in way more than mere religious observance or even being a good citizen. He is interested in the real me and you – the heart of us, the heart of the matter and his interest is pure love – wrapped in cloth made of human hands, infant Jesus from a human uterus, hands, feet, breath, face – his life in our life, his breath in our lungs, his love in our words and deeds, his fire to call them all home to himself in our belies.

Let Christmas be what it is – more than family or religious observance. Let it be more than keeping up appearances and being seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ and see what happens.

You might find yourself shaking in your boots with amazement like those working shepherds as they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the good news that hope has come, life is renewed and the God truly loves me in real word and action.

You might find yourself embroiled in a real struggle like Joseph. God has done something to change my plans and now I either go with it or keep my own way – knowing that if I go with his plan it will be revolutionary for my life – and very, very, good, despite what others may think.

You might find yourself with Mary, quietly pondering the great blessing of being chosen as the one to bear something new, some one new – someone you carry to work and into life that changes your relationships – to the surprise of those around you!

The alternative is to keep it religious or political – stay with Annas and Caiaphas or Quirinius or the King – Augustus. It is safer, and for that the glory for any good comes to you.

But what if you gave your glory away tonight and simply marvelled at his! “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to the world he loves,” call the angels of God to us tonight.

That is lasting glory and it is all him. His grand plan to love the worst and welcome the underserving is a plan worth living for. His plan for my life is better than mine. His will is more gracious, grander in scale, not dependent on me but totally given in love for me to enjoy and live in.

Why the story and why to everyday people? Because Christmas is much more – more than religion or politics.

Jesus comes to you in real life to bring a hope yet unseen, a love yet unfathomed, a peace immovable a life grander, fuller, and needed way beyond politics or mere religious observance – real lifer with real heart for real people.

That’s the baby in the manger there for you tonight. Angels, stinky loin cloths, bad grammar, big questions about life, people who think they don’t matter (but obviously do!), crazy night, wrong clothes, we “cannot not” welcome him. That’s best double negative you’ll ever hear!

Our Coming Saviour: Christmas Eve – Why this story?

HomilyOur Coming Saviour
Christmas Eve 2015
St Petri, 7.30pm

Luke 2: 8–12
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Why shepherds? Why did God choose shepherds? Why star gazers, young women, tradesmen, ordinary families out in towns and paddocks – not in castles, shopping malls, church buildings or government offices? Why farmers, business owners, mums. Dads, kids, everyday people and why not the powerful – government, political leaders, church leaders, CEO’s of large companies – movers and shakers?

And why all the fuss and why all the calls by Christians to keep the reason for season – the keep “Christ in Christmas”?
Why re-tell the story and why go to such length to remember it, share it, teach it to our children and tell it to friend and foe alike this time of year?

Because this event is much more.
Christmas is more than…..religion or politics.
The gospel witnesses make it abundantly clear that this event in a mere satellite suburb of the city is neither in the realm of the government under Caesar Augustus or Governor Quirinius or the religious community under High priests Anna and Caiaphas.

When “the Word came and dwelt among us” (John 1) the word of God didn’t go to the church building. The angel’s announcement of the fulfillment of prophecy goes not to the Temple but to shepherds sleeping rough in the paddock. The Word did not first go to big billboard signs and massive advertising campaigns during prime time TV but to John the Baptist out in the wilderness. And not in his father Zechariah’s office in the Temple.
Hear tonight that the Word made human flesh and blood comes to people where people need him most – in real life, real time, real need, real issues, real concerns.

He comes tonight to where we all live in one way or another, in one time or other, now, then or soon –
In the lonely isolation of the paddock,
In the loss of place or the threat of future financial security.
In the complexity and confusion of strained family relationships,
In the uncertainty about this world,
In the pain of illness and sadness of suffering,
In the comfort of being self-sufficient,
In the veil of pride in our own achievements that cannot last or deliver the final peace, joy and hope for which we all long
In real life that is not for show or not even close to being famous or powerful – the life we all live, He is – Immanuel – God with us right in the middle of life, not only in this beautiful candle lit church building or this beautiful Valley of vines and life and this relatively well healed and safe Country called Australia.

God goes out to that lonely place, those dry places, those parched sands, those troubled places where hate seems to rule – he goes into them and calls you to himself and his immense love in those places. Our God is not a God who dwells in ivory towers or star lit skies, although he creates them all and is in all and through all.

That infant in the trough tells us in a way we can feel and smell and touch that he really is interested in way more than mere religious observance or even being a good citizen. He is interested in the real me and you – the heart of us, the heart of the matter and his interest is pure love – wrapped in cloth made of human hands, infant Jesus from a human uterus, hands, feet, breath, face – his life in our life, his breath in our lungs, his love in our words and deeds, his fire to call them all home to himself in our belies.

Let Christmas be what it is – more than family or religious observance. Let it be more than keeping up appearances and being seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ and see what happens.

You might find yourself….

Shaking in your boots with amazement like those working shepherds as they are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the good news that hope has come, life is renewed and the God truly loves me in real word and action.

Embroiled in a real struggle like Joseph. God has done something to change my plans and now I either go with it or keep my own way – knowing that if I go with his plan it will be revolutionary for my life – and very, very, good, despite what others may think.

You might find yourself with Mary, quietly pondering the great blessing of being chosen as the one to bear something new, some one new – someone you carry to work and into life that changes your relationships – to the surprise of those around you!

The alternative is to keep it religious or political – stay with Annas and Caiaphas or Quirinius or the King – Augustus. It is safer, and for that the glory for any good comes to you.

But what if you gave your glory away tonight and simply marvelled at his! “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to the world he loves,” call the angels of God to us tonight.

That is lasting glory and it is all him. His grand plan to love the worst and welcome the underserving is a plan worth living for. His plan for my life is better than mine. His will is more gracious, grander in scale, not dependent on me but totally given in love for me to enjoy and live in.

Why the story and why to everyday people? Because Christmas is much more – more than religion or politics.

Jesus comes to you in real life to bring a hope yet unseen, a love yet unfathomed, a peace immovable a life grander, fuller, and needed way beyond politics or mere religious observance – real lifer with real heart for real people.

That’s the baby in the manger there for you tonight. Angels, stinky loin cloths, bad grammar, big questions about life, people who think they don’t matter (but obviously do!), crazy night, wrong clothes, we “cannot not” welcome him. That’s best double negative you’ll ever hear!

Really Good News Christmas Eve

Sermon: Christmas Eve     Advent -Christmas Title Pic 2013

“Receiving some Good News”  

Luke 2:8-12               

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

People think that Christianity is about keeping rules, trying to be good, not doing anything wrong, finding a personal meaning to cope with life. People think that Christians who proclaim that God is real, good and present in the world now have spent way too long out in the paddock and are suffering from some kind of psychological trauma or are lost in some kind of delusional belief.

The Shepherd guy knows none of that is true. So do the first witnesses to the event of that first Christmas. So do people who believe what they hear in this room now.

Christmas is not a fairy tale, an age old fable to drag out each year to make us all feel nice as families or some concocted story that helps business along for the year. It has become this for many people. But we are not convinced about all of that. In fact we are convinced that it is the grandest vision of life and the greatest story of our lives and it is in essence  very, very good news – not just for church goers but for alive human beings.

A grand vision for the world and for you?

How about a vision of life that proclaims that there is room in the divine inn for anyone, from anywhere who has done or not done anything?

How about a grand vision of life that speaks of the relentless divine interrupting of our lives to get through to us that God is love and in him all people find their home, their place, their peace?

How about a vision of God that says that you are like the Shepherd guy – chosen, invited in, called, welcomed, not accidental, isolated, banished from the church, outcast from acceptance and welcome and the kindness of the God.

How about good news that really is good news – the world is heading somewhere after all. Human beings , animals, rocks plants the seas and the sky and stars are still being shaped by a God who loves all of us and all of it. God is still operating beyond and behind and further out than we can know or see – but can trust.

How about your life being lived with God’s constant interruptions, so that the Creator and Sustainer of the world can tell you again that he is still here, still with you, that your baptism into his divine community in the presence of his Son, Jesus, still means plenty to him; you mean plenty to him and you have your place any time you want it?

One thing…

Like the Shepherd, we folks at St Petri are different men and women, young adults and kids now, because of one thing. We are not loved and accepted and called and chosen because we are good. We could never be good enough to match God’s goodness and win his approval.

We are not called and loved because we have figured out the secret spiritual pathway, or understood the mysterious meaning of life in some philosophical system, or learnt some ancient spiritual ritual or practice that somehow cleanses us and makes us one with nature.

No, we have been made acceptable, made wise to God’s ways, aware of God’s presence and responsive to his word of promise in our ears by God with us – this human divine life in the hay and the wood and the cold and the love of those around him.

He is the third way. The gospel way, the grace way, the gospel way for this life and this town and this family.

It all begins in this cave, this feeding trough, this candle lit room, this gathering of strangers brought together by the star of God – the real star of Christmas – God with us and for us – Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Saviour, Friend of sinners, man of sorrows, triumphant king of kings, sung into birth by angels and presented gifts by science and reasoned men, seen by the workers of the world and marvelled at by a surprised carpenter and his very young wife to be.

Pack it up for another year?

Will we walk away from this darkened candle lit room tonight and pack Christmas and the star and the story away for another year like we pack up the tree, throw out the wrapping paper or store in the cupboard until we drag it out again next year or will we take this light into our own darkness and into the dark places in our families and community?

 Will we be chosen?

Will we be chosen tonight? If we do what the Shepherds did and journey toward the Prince of Peace, will we need to own up to the fact that we have not got a leg to stand on when it come to being righteous, right, good, perfect or holy. But then he will say all this is done for you by this Christ Child as he grows to that adult bearing the shame and sin of the world on that Calvary hill, then bursting out of the dark dead tomb in light and life.

Friend, God is choosing you again this holy night. He is placing his star at your front door. He is speaking really good news which has nothing to do with you being good – just being made new – by this Light, this Emmanuel – God with us and for us.

Take the Star.

Will you take in that star and let him light up your house from the inside? Will you lay aside what you have summed up Christmas to be and let Jesus sum you up and speak his good news into your heart and mind?

Tonight is a sign – an ancient sign but a present sign, a human sign – a human baby of divine being and life. Tonight is a sign for you. A moment of Jesus seeking you out and interrupting your life again – not for the purpose of making you fearful of God, the church, the Saviour – but an interruption to your plans that is really good for you and your family.

We pray that you read the sign, grab a hold of the light, hear the news that is good and take it with you into tomorrow and 2014.

The light and hope of Jesus is shining tonight and interrupting us again, and there is no need to be afraid.

Amen.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve Message 2012, St PetriChristmas 2012

After viewing a media reflection: “We all have reasons to build a wall between the manger and ourselves” (Sermon spice)   

VIEW HERE  [wpvideo Lzb9aDPv]

I AM

• Self-righteous

• Faking it

• Playing church games

• Lonely this Christmas

• Putting up the usual walls of doubt, cynicism

• Scared of what is happening to me

• Judged, feeling like an outsider

• Too bad for God

• Too dark for church

What would Christmas look and feel like if for a minute I removed the walls between me and that manger?

Friends, there is no need for walls this Christmas.

Jesus is jumping over them to help you hear that they are not high enough, strong enough or deep enough to stop his hope, peace and love from penetrating the hardest or darkest heart.

We need to remind ourselves of what this baby boy in a feeding trough is all about.

• His palace? Mary’s womb.

• His substance? Flesh and bone so fragile just like mine and yours.

• His power? Human weakness that defeats all of our darkness and fear.

How the world was won

(Sung by Pr A – Music and words © 2001 Robin Mann, used by permission)

1. Let’s remind each other how the world was won

not with mighty army, nor with soldier’s gun;

his unlikely palace: Mother Mary’s womb.

‘Operation Jesus’, from a borrowed room.

2. Flesh and bone so fragile, his strategic way:

with a broken body Jesus won the day.

Cluster bombs and rifles he had none of these.

They were never needed for his victory.

3. Though this child was helpless, Satan’s kingdom fell.

Weakness was the weapon that defeated hell.

Feeble flesh, so human, just like mine and yours,

brought the world to safety, opened heaven’s door.

4. May I lie beside you in your manger bed,

will I know or care what danger lies ahead?

If I feel your breath upon my face I know

heaven’s power is with me everywhere I go.

© 2001 Robin Mann

LicenSing 211879 210564

Can the usual walls that keep out the manger be let go tonight?

That child king in the manger says, I AM

• Life

• Truth

• Way

• Good shepherd

• Door to life

• Food for the journey

• Resurrection from it all

Can the usual walls that keep out the manger be let go tonight?

We hope so.

The great I AM has come to our life – in all our humanity.

There is love in that manger beyond all loves.

There is peace in that manger beyond any human peace.

There is life in the manger – beyond what we currently experience – even beyond death.

There is hope in that manger – not a children’s story, a wishful thought or a maybe kind of thing – real hope. Hope for meaning and purpose in your life.

Hope for life lived to the full with the One who created you and is with you now in self-sacrificing love – God’s love.

We all have our reasons.

 We all have the invitation to approach and adore this child-king and Saviour.

He will change us. he will stir us.

He will love us.

Amen